2020 Summer Olympics opening ceremony

Coordinates: 35°40′41″N 139°42′54″E / 35.67806°N 139.71500°E / 35.67806; 139.71500

The opening ceremony of the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics took place on 23 July 2021 at Olympic Stadium, Tokyo,[3] and was formally opened by Emperor Naruhito.[4] As mandated by the Olympic Charter, the proceedings combined the formal and ceremonial opening of this international sporting event, including welcoming speeches, hoisting of the flags and the parade of athletes, with an artistic spectacle to showcase the host nation's culture and history. The vast majority of the artistic spectacle was pre-recorded, with live segments performed with a small VIP audience and performers adhering to social distancing. The ceremony marked the 125th anniversary of the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens—the inaugural edition of the modern Olympic Games.[5][6]

2020 Summer Olympics
opening ceremony
Drones durante a abertura das Olimpíadas de Tóquio.jpg
The "Imagine" portion featured drones that project the Tokyo 2020 logo shapes and the globe itself.
Date23 July 2021; 53 days ago (2021-07-23)
Time20:00 – 23:50 JST (UTC+9)
LocationTokyo, Japan
Theme"Moving Forward: United by Emotion"[1][2]
Filmed byOBS on behalf of the Japan Consortium

The theme of the Olympic Ceremonies is Moving Forward, referencing the global COVID-19 pandemic, with the opening ceremony theme being the Tokyo 2020 motto United by Emotion, which the organisers intend to "reaffirm the role of sport and the value of the Olympic Games."[1][2] The ceremony focused on responses to the pandemic by the athlete community, including themes of lament, restoration and hope, as well as some cultural points in Japan such as Japanese Theater, Video Games, and TV programming, such as Kasou Taishou. For the first time in an Olympic opening ceremony, a moment of silence was observed in honour of Israeli athletes and officials murdered in the Munich Massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics.[7][8]


January 2017–December 2020: Original Plans

Japan National Stadium (Olympic Stadium)

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) gave the first report of preparations in December 2017, with the release of the "Basic Policy" document for the Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies.[9] The document was based upon feedback from experts and opinions of the Japanese public and includes the foundational elements for the positioning and overall concept of the four ceremonies. The Olympic opening ceremony is to introduce the themes and concepts of the four ceremonies, including peace, coexistence, reconstruction, the future, Japan and Tokyo, the athletes and involvement.[10]

Between July 2018 and December 2020, Mansai Nomura, an actor in traditional Japanese theater, was the chief creative director.[11][12] Marco Balich of Balich Worldwide Shows, is the Senior Adviser to the Executive Producer. Balich was involved as producer of the ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics, 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2016 Summer Olympics, and has done other international ceremonies such as the 2019 Summer Universiade and the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima. In July 2019, he mentioned that his involvement will be in partnership with the Japanese advertising company Dentsu.[13] Dentsu's creative director for these ceremonies, Kaoru Sugano, resigned in January 2020 over harassment claims.[14]

Previous Olympic opening ceremonies in Japan, such as the 1998 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Nagano, mixed ancient Japanese cultural elements with themes of international peace.[15] Reports from Inside the Games and Kyodo News in January 2020 suggested that there would be a bigger focus on Japanese technology and its popular culture in this ceremony.[16] This would follow on with what was presented in the Rio 2016 closing ceremony, where then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dressed up as Mario in the handover segment.

According to reports from Shūkan Bunshun, the original theme would include elements from many cultural waypoints such as J-pop and video games with the creative team led by MIKIKO before it was scaled back. The ceremony would have begun with Akira manga racing on a motorcycle.

Artists, musicians and actors were to appear in the ceremony:

  • Perfume were due to sing "Welcome to Tokyo" using computer generated imagery of the city's scenery and the mapping label of the 23 special wards;
  • Daichi Miura was due to come from a wired frame car dressing as a staff member in Tokyo Station before his face turning into a tree;
  • Tao Tsuchiya and Tomohiko Tsujimoto were due to dance into a vitality of Japanese nature scenery before Miura himself would turn into an eye and a clock;
  • AyaBambi were due to dance in the middle of the clock;
  • Koharu Sugawara was due to perform sitting into a tea room at the traditional tea ceremony;
  • High school dance group Tokyo Gegegay were due to perform using the frames influenced from Neo Tokyo;
  • Mirai Moriyama was due to perform holding a glowing stick using martial arts moves before children with lanterns would carry the Japanese flag;
  • Naomi Watanabe was due to disguise an office worker in a post-apocalyptic world mimicking a flashback of the 1964 Summer Olympics plus dancers with balls have to appear with her and "READY" sign was to be shown before athletes entering the stadium;
  • Lady Gaga was to make a special appearance

Nintendo CEO Shigeru Miyamoto would have been given to speak, Mario would have set to appear from a Warp Pipe, with legendary anime characters Hello Kitty, Tsubasa Oozora from Captain Tsubasa, an eponymous character from Doraemon, Goku from Dragon Ball and Pikachu from Pokémon, and video game characters Pac-Man and Sonic the Hedgehog would have also appeared before the lighting of the Olympic Flame.[17][18]

The new National Stadium, called Olympic Stadium during the Games, served as the main stadium for the opening ceremony. Demolition of old National Stadium was completed in May 2015. Construction of the new stadium began at the site on 11 December 2016. The stadium was handed over to the IOC on 30 November 2019 for preparations. Had the pandemic not happen, capacity of the stadium during the Olympic Games would have been 60,102, including account press and executive seating areas.[19] Before the announcement of barring spectators was made, ticket prices for the Opening Ceremony were expected to range between ¥12,000 and ¥300,000.[20][21]

December 2020–July 2021: COVID-19 Impact

In February 2020, after announcements concerning scaling back the Tokyo marathon due to the effects of COVID-19, health officials began to question whether the Olympic opening ceremony would also be impacted.[22] On 24 March 2020, the IOC and the Tokyo Organizing Committee officially announced that due to the ongoing pandemic in Japan, the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics would be delayed to 2021, and held no later than Summer 2021 (marking the first time that an entire Olympics was postponed).[23] On 30 March 2020, it was announced that the ceremony would take place on 23 July 2021.[24]

In December 2020, it was announced that Normura stepped down from Chief Creative Director as the original ceremony team disbanded, and Hiroshi Sasaki was announced as the new director.[25] Normura became an advisor.[26] At the press conference, Sasaki pointed out that the previous plans were scrapped as it was considered too extravagant, which suggested that it would be simplified as per audience expectations.[26]

In March 2021, Sasaki resigned after making a derogatory comment about Japanese comedian and fashion icon Naomi Watanabe.[27][28] The reports came a month after Yoshirō Mori, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, resigned over derogatory comments made about female members of the committee. Since March 2021 until 22 July 2021, Kentarō Kobayashi was made chief creative director, with Takayuki Hioki, managing director of Sports Branding Japan,[29] promoted to deputy chief ceremonies officer and executive producer.[1]

During organizing talks in late 2020, concerns were raised over who could attend the Opening Ceremony. In July 2021, the organizers agreed that the ceremony would be performed with no live audience, except for competing athletes if they choose to attend, a maximum of six officials for each country's delegation, and invited VIP guests.[30][5] Much of the artistic and cultural sections of the ceremony will adhere to social distancing guidelines, and the majority of segments will be pre-recorded.[6]

In a press release released on 14 July 2021, the committee announced the themes and the creative team for the opening and closing of the Olympics and Paralympics. The theme of the Olympic ceremonies would be called "Moving Forward" referencing the world recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The creative team state that they "have designed the ceremonies around the concept that the Games can bring fresh hope and encouragement to people around the world through the active appearance of athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Games and via the power of sport."[2] This was expected, as just after the postponement in March 2020, Balich said that the crisis would be mentioned at some point during the ceremony due to its significance at the games.[31]

In that same press release, it found that they appointed Keigo Oyamada of Cornelius as one of the composers.[32][33] The appointment prompted criticism on social media due to Oyamada's past bullying of people with apparent disabilities, such as Down syndrome.[34][35] Oyamada admitted the disability abuse in interviews that resurfaced after his appointment.[36] On 16 July, a week before the opening ceremony, the Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which was questioned for insight and good sense, announced their support for him to continue as a composer.[37][38] Toshirō Mutō, the chief executive of the Organizing Committee, said he wanted Oyamada to remain involved.[36] However, on 19 July, Oyamada formally apologized, resigned and withdrew his music from the ceremony.[39]

On 22 July 2021, the day before the ceremony, Kentarō Kobayashi, the chief creative director of the ceremonies after Sasaki resigned, was fired by the organizing committee for making jokes about the Holocaust in a comedy routine in 1998, and the committee asked for a review of the ceremony content before it was performed.[40] That evening, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who serves as the Supreme Advisor and Chairperson of the Organizing Committee,[41] described Kobayashi's Holocaust jokes as "outrageous and unacceptable", but also said that the opening ceremony, prepared and directed by Kobayashi, should proceed as planned.[42]


Emperor Naruhito and dignitaries in attendance (at Japan National Stadium on 23 July 2021)

"Moving Forward" was the consistent theme for both 2020 Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as announced by Tokyo 2020: the ceremonies were linked by the concept of "Moving Forward", a reference to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. "We have designed the ceremonies around the concept that the Games can bring fresh hope and encouragement to people around the world through the active appearance of athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Games and via the power of sport", organisers declared.[43]

"United by Emotion" was the theme song of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, rendered to the melody of "Imagine",[44][clarification needed] as it is the official motto of the 2020 Games.[45][46]

The Opening and Closing Ceremonies was produced by Takayuki Hioki, having been advised by Marco Balich, who notably executively created the opening of Turin's Winter Olympics in 2006. "In the Opening Ceremony, we will aspire to reaffirm the role of sport and the value of the Olympic Games, to express our gratitude and admiration for the efforts we all made together over the past year, and also to bring a sense of hope for the future", said Tokyo 2020. "We hope it will be an experience that conveys how we all have the ability to celebrate differences, to empathise, and to live side by side with compassion for one another." Although the creative director of the ceremony, Kentarō Kobayashi, was fired on the day before the ceremony due to the past jokes of The Holocaust, the organising committee decided to hold the ceremony how it had been prepared and directed by him.[47]



The event, which was set to last three and a half hours, started at 20:00 JST,[48] featured many sequences of the ceremony which were pre-recorded.[6] As part of the "Moving Forward" theme, many segments involved diverse representation and building or re-building.[49] The titles from this section largely come from the organisers.[50][51][52][53][54][55][56][57][58]

Title Procedure (JST : UTC+9)
1 Prelude Exhibition Flight by Blue Impulse (12:30–12:35)
2 Where the Stories Begin Flying of doves (20:00–20:03), montage of Tokyo winning the 2020 Games and changed the lives of athletes (20:03–20:07)
3 Apart but not Alone Arisa Tsubata appears on a treadmill (20:07–20:10) and abstract dancing performance (20:10–20:13)
4 A Welcome from the Host The Flag of Japan was carried by six flag bearers (20:14–20:18), Misia sings the national anthem of Japan (20:18–20:19) and Mirai Moriyama performs a butō dance (20:20–20:25)
5 A Lasting Legacy Olympic Rings unveilling (20:26–20:30) and pre-recorded segment of Muhammad Yunus awarding an Olympic Laurel (20:31–20:34)
6 Here Together Pre-recorded videotape performance by Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra (20:35–20:37), athletes marching the stadium (20:37–22:32), a new motto (22:33–22:37) and a half-recorded, half-live performance "Imagine" sung by Angélique Kidjo, Alejandro Sanz, John Legend, and Keith Urban with an appearance of Suginami Junior Chorus (22:38–22:43)
7 Peace Through Sport Speech by TOCOG President Seiko Hashimoto (22:45–22:49), then IOC President Thomas Bach (22:50–23:03), Emperor Naruhito (declare the opening of Olympic Games, 23:04) and the raising of Olympic Flag (23:05–23:09) with Olympic Anthem being sung by Fukushima Students' Choir
8 Let the Games Begin and Time to Shine Performance by Gamarjobat (23:11–23:19) including all 50 pictograms of the events for the games, Hitori Gekidan switching off Tokyo's landmarks (23:20–23:22) and a performances by kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizō XI and jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara (23:23–23:31)
9 Hope Lights Our Way Recapping the Olympic Flame's journey started in Greece on 12 March 2020 and Japan leg began in Fukushima on 25 March 2021 and so on (23:32–23:37) and the Flame enters the stadium (23:37–23:47)


Exhibition flight by Blue Impulse

On the day of the ceremony, there was an exhibition flight by Blue Impulse, the aerobatics squadron of the Japanese Air Self Defense Force. The squadron drew the Olympic Rings over the Tokyo skies, marked the 57th anniversary of the 1964 Games for the first time in Tokyo.[59][60]

Where the Stories Begin

A stop motion video begins showing many geometric shapes drawn in chalk, before showing a birds eye shot of the stadium. The camera zooms in on National Stadium, while a flock of doves fly by. The camera zooms into the grass ground where it focuses on a seed. Cutting to a live shot, an athlete is lit in green, while a projection of a seedling growing is shown behind the athlete.[61]

A videotaped montage of Tokyo's recap to hosting the Games began, from awarding the rights in 2013 during the 125th IOC Session, to the hard work and training of the athletes, to the Olympic Games Rio 2016, to the qualification of the athletes and then, the chaotic events of 2020 when the world suddenly changed, which caused the athletes to continue training from home via video communication. A countdown from '21' referencing the postponement of games played, showing athletes overcoming the challenges of the past year. At 0, 694 fireworks then are then set off.[61][62]

Apart but not Alone

Opening ceremony (at Japan National Stadium on 23 July 2021)

The first performance of the ceremony, designed "[showcase] Japan’s forte in digital art and projection mapping technology,"[63] featured a digital graphics projection on the stadium floor, at the centre of which nurse and boxer Arisa Tsubata, who won a national championship only two years after taking the sport,[64] but was unable to participate as an athlete after being eliminated in the first round of the Asia & Oceania Boxing Olympic Qualification tournament held prior to the pandemic and the games' postponement, jogged on a treadmill,[65][66] then was joined by performers on an exercise cycle, rowing maching, running in place, while performers abstract danced and coloured ball of light were projected,[65] "symbolising the athletes' plight in training during the pandemic for this event."[63] The ceremony opened with dancers wearing white outfits connected by red strings, meant to "portray the inner workings of the body and heart."[67]

A Welcome from the Host

The following act featured the Japanese national flag and was carried by six bearers. They are:

Then, veteran singer Misia, who wore a dress designed "to honour the LGBTQ+ community and symbolise the fight for LGBTQ+ equality" made by openly gay costume designer Tomo Koizumi,[68] singing the National Anthem of Japan while the flag was raised up by the members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.[63] After the Japanese National Anthem was sung,[67] a tribute was paid for those who had died from COVID-19, the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami,[63] and especially for the victims of the Munich 1972 massacre, one year before the 50th anniversary of that massacre. The actor Mirai Moriyama appeared up dressed in white and,[8] after striking a pose of mourning,[49] performed a butō dance in the middle of the stadium, while tenebrous and funereal music played. Subsequently, a moment of silence was observed at the culmination of this section of the ceremony.[8]

A Lasting Legacy

The unveiling of the Olympic Rings, which were made from trees planted from seeds during the 1964 Olympics, followed. It starred tap-dancing performers wearing hanten coats, which were traditionally worn by Edo-era craftspeople and carpenters and evoked Japanese summertime festivals, at which this style of clothing is common,[68][63] as they built what has either been described as a mock Olympic Village[67] or a matsuri, as the rings were brought while being surrounded by Japanese paper lanterns.[69]

A pre-recorded video was shown of Muhammad Yunus receiving the Olympic Laurel award in Bangladesh, because Yunus could not travel to Japan due to travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic in that country.[70][71]

Here Together

Parade of Nations

Eritrea at the 2020 Summer Olympics Parade of Nations

The Parade of Nations followed with the team delegations marching into the stadium.[63] Before the athletes marched, a videotaped section was shown showcasing how the world trained for these challenging Olympics.

Athletes entered the stadium in an order dictated by the Olympic tradition. As the originator of the Olympics, the Greek team entered first. Other teams entered in order of the Gojūon system based on the names of countries in the Japanese language, the first time this happened as previous Olympics held in Japan have used the English language.[72] Following tradition, the delegation from the host nation Japan entered last.

The Refugee Olympic Team, composed of refugees from several countries, was the second nation to enter, after Greece. For the first time ever in the opening ceremony, the countries that will host the next two Olympic Games, France (in 2024) and the United States (in 2028), marched immediately before the host nation Japan entered,[63] instead of entering one-hundred-fifty-fourth (between Brazil and Bulgaria) and seventh (between Afghanistan and United Arab Emirates),[failed verification] respectively, according to the Japanese alphabet order.[73] The names of the teams were announced in French, followed by English and Japanese, the official languages of the Olympic movement and the host nation, in accordance with traditional and International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines.

Each of the signboards displaying the countries' names was written in Japanese on one side and English on the other, enclosed in speech balloons, evoking manga panels,[68] while the signholders' costumes had manga tones.[64]

The athletes themselves attended in low numbers compared to previous Olympics, as out of Team USA's 613 and Australia's 472, only about 200 and 63 attended, respectively.[74]

In their entrances, several teams, including Argentina[75] and Ghana,[64] broke into song, while the Twitter account for the Games pointed out an Eritrean athlete who laid down on the ground,[76] which other athletes had done as well while looking at their phones.[49] As Russia had been banned to partake in sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency, Russian athletes marched under the ROC designation and flag.[77] Japan inverted the colours of the uniform they had used in the 1964 Olympics,[78] while France paraded in three rows, representing the tricolor flag.[79] Two flagbearers, Tonga's Pita Taufatofua and Vanautu's Riilio Rii, paraded shirtless and oiled.[74] Noticeably, several members of the Kyrgyz and Tajik delegations as well as the Pakistani flagbearers entered the ceremony maskless.[80] During the parade of nations, Mohamad Maso of Syria was reunited with his brother, Alaa, who represented the IOC Refugee Olympic Team.[81]

For the first time, each team had the option to allow two flag bearers, one male and one female, in an effort to promote gender equality.[82]

Before the athletes paraded in, a sign inside the stadium pointed out that the athletes should keep social distance between themselves and how far was the entrance as well as the restroom.[64]

In addition, 19 tracks from popular Japanese video game series were also used during the duration of the two hour-long segment, these being:[68][83][84][85][86]

These also became the last parade involving Afghanistan before the Taliban re-invasion of Kabul several weeks after the games.

A New Motto and Oath

The Parade of Nations finished with the projection of the Olympic motto, "Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together" in the middle of the stadium floor, between the athletes, which were organised into quadrants after they marched in.[63] A message from Kirsty Coventry, the outgoing chair of the IOC Athletes' Commission was played, introducing the new Olympic Oath with the aim of promoting inclusion and the role of Athletes, Judges and Coaches as ambassadors.[87] The following oath was delivered by 6 participants from the Tokyo delegation:[88]

We promise to take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules and in the spirit of fair play, inclusion and equality. Together we stand in solidarity and commit ourselves to sport without doping, without cheating, without any form of discrimination. We do this for the honour of our teams, in respect for the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, and to make the world a better place through sport.


It was followed by groups of all ages dancing around boxes, which were organised into three circles and then into the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 emblem logo.[49] Mirroring the previous segment, 1,824 drones made a 3D rendition of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 emblem logo over the stadium and then the globe of Earth with its continents.[63]

Following this an "emotional montage",[63] featuring a "half-live, half-recorded performance"[65] of "Imagine", composed by John Lennon, was sung by Angélique Kidjo, Alejandro Sanz, John Legend, and Keith Urban, all of whom joined remotely via pre-recorded material; plus the Suginami Junior Chorus, who was live in the stadium.[89] It was arranged by Hans Zimmer,[8][90] and had musical support provided by TAIKOPROJECT and the Synchron Stage Orchestra and Stage Choir.[89] "Imagine" had previously appeared at other Olympic ceremonies, including the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996 closing ceremony, the Olympic Winter Games Torino 2006 opening ceremony, the Olympic Games London 2012 closing ceremony, and the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 opening ceremony.[89]

Peace Through Sport (Olympic Protocol)

Seiko Hashimoto, President of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and Thomas Bach, IOC president, then gave speeches.[63] For her part, Hashimoto, was described as having "emotion in her voice as she spoke", speaking about the Tokyo Olympics as an example of overcoming difficulties, as the pitch 10 years ago was for the Olympics as part of the rebuilding effort after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. She also called for the "Olympic Truce" to be observed.[91] Bach highlighted that the Olympic movement showed "the unifying power of sport," and expressed his gratitude to healthcare workers, the volunteers and described participating refugee athletes as an "enrichment" for society.[49][92] Both speeches lasted a combined total of nine minutes.[49]

The opening declaration of the 2020 Olympic Games, limited to a prescribed statement of around 17 words, laid down in the Olympic Charter, was made by Emperor Naruhito. Kyodo News quoted a source as confirming that the Emperor would be attending. He was the third Japanese Emperor to open an Olympics, following his grandfather Emperor Hirohito (1964 Summer and 1972 Winter Olympics) and his father Emperor Akihito (1998 Winter Olympics). He was also the honorary patron of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympics.[4] After Naruhito declared the Games open, 288 fireworks were set off.[93]

The Olympic Flag then entered the stadium. Many of the flag bearers were both athletes and frontline nurses, doctors and healthcare workers during the pandemic. The flag bearers were:[94]

It was then handed to front line workers from Japan and was raised.[94] The Olympic Anthem was sung in English by the choir composed of high school students from Tokyo and Fukushima.[87][94]

Finally, doves were projected on the stadium floor, before thousands of paper doves fluttered into the stadium, while an English recording of Susan Boyle performing the Japanese folk song Tsubasa o Kudasai (Wings to Fly) played.[99][100]

Let the Games Begin & Time to Shine

A video sequence showed the history of the Olympic pictograms had been introduced at the Olympic Games 1964 (also in Tokyo), followed by a live-action recreation of the 50 pictograms used for the events of this Olympic Games.[101] Out of the 50 pictograms, 48 were acted out by the performers using camera angles and various props, some done live in the middle of the stadium, others in prerecorded segments additionally with hand gestures, finger tutting, studio lights, and karate gi. During one prerecorded segment, parts of the song "Camptown Races" could be briefly heard while the equestrian-related pictograms were recreated. The first pictogram shown, the one for the modern pentathlon, was initially depicted as a static image before the performer portraying the running figure moved out of place, setting up the nature of the performance, while the one for sailing was found printed on a propsman's shirt. The segment was directed by HIRO-PON, (from Gamarjobat) [102] with the segment being called "a funny, witty performance reminiscent of a typical Japanese TV game show."[63]

Following this, a lighting technician played by the comedian Hitori Gekidan was seen on camera to switch on the lights for several Tokyo and national landmarks across Japan.[63] The Olympic champion and former figure skater Shizuka Arakawa was also involved in this sketch.

A performance by kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizō XI, acting out an excerpt from Shibaraku, was accompanied by jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara, playing a rendition of a tune from her album Spectrum. The segment, "intended to dispel negative energy," symbolised the mixing of both traditional Japanese performing arts and the Japanese affection towards modern jazz.[49][63][103]

Hope Lights Our Way

The flame, in the bottom right is lit, while fireworks were set off.

Before the flame arrived at the stadium, a recap video played showcasing the flame's journey across Japan featuring the song Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together) performed by Queen. The flame was brought into the stadium at the end of the torch relay by wrestler Saori Yoshida and judoka Tadahiro Nomura. It was carried by a trio of Japanese baseball greats (Shigeo Nagashima, Sadaharu Oh, and Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui), a doctor and a nurse, paralympian Wakako Tsuchida, and a group of students from Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures who were born shortly before the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Finally Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka carried it up the steps to light the Olympic cauldron;[100][104] Osaka herself would compete for Japan in the Olympics before being eliminated in the third round of the women's tennis competition.[105] Three hours later, the badminton player Ayaka Takahashi lit another cauldron, outside the stadium which was off–limits to guests.[106]

In December 2018, organisers had stated that although the Olympic cauldron would be officially lit and extinguished at the stadium, the flame would be transferred to a separate, public cauldron (following the lead of the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010 and the Olympic Games Rio 2016) at Ariake West Canal, on the Tokyo riverfront while the Games were in progress, and transferred back to Olympic Stadium for the closing ceremony. Organisers cited "physical difficulties" to keeping the flame at the New National Stadium due to the current japanese legislation about fire efects use.[107] Due to the state of emergency, the cauldron was off-limits to guests and situated outside the Olympic Stadium.[106]

The cauldron was designed by Canadian-Japanese designer Oki Sato, who attended Waseda University, the same university as Yoshinori Sakai, the cauldron-lighter in 1964.[1] The steps to reach the cauldron, symbolising Mount Fuji, were "designed to evoke the image of a blooming sakura flower."[68]

The music featured in the cauldron lighting included Boléro by Maurice Ravel, "Rise of the Planet 9" from Dr. Copellius, composed by Isao Tomita, followed by the fireworks featuring the music of Takashi Yoshimatsu's Symphony No. 2 "At terra".

Dignitaries in attendance

Even though the stadium had a capacity for 68,000 spectators, only 800 foreign and 150 local officials,[108] who were deemed "Games stakeholders", were in attendance, as well as 3,500 members of the media and 6,000 members of team delegations, totalling 10,400.[49] Even though it is customary for Olympic sponsors to send corporate representatives as well, companies such as Toyota, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, NEC, and Fujitsu, opted out of attending.[108] A scoreboard in the stadium warned the attendees to "Clap, Do not sing or chant".[64]

Host country dignitaries

Dignitaries from abroad

Dignitaries in attendance (at Japan National Stadium on 23 July 2021)

Dignitaries from International organizations



Outside the venue, protesters' opposing the Olympics being run during the pandemic was held in the southwestern corner of the Stadium, timed so that it would coincide with the beginning of the ceremony.[64] The protestors' chant, "Go to hell, IOC," could reportedly be heard inside the stadium.[132]

Another scandal involving musicians was the dropping of the Sengalese-born Japanese percussionist, Latyr Sy, allegedly due to the organizers' reticence in having an "African" in the ceremony. He had been hired in May and had the rehearsal schedule sent to him in April, however, upon enquiring about signing his contract in May, he was informed that his inclusion in the program had been rejected due to his ethnicity.[133][134] A spokesperson of the organising committee later stated that Sy's claim was completely different from the facts, and said "We had planned a music part in which many singers would participate, but due to infectious disease control and budget, we cancelled the part itself. Therefore we cancelled the appearance of all the participants in the music part. That is the background of that story."[135]

Ceremony key team


  • Tomoyuki Tanaka, musical director[102]
  • Gamarjobat's HIRO-PON, guest appearance[102]
  • Kei Shibata
  • Kentarō Kobayashi, Opening Ceremony Director[a][102]
  • Mansai Nomura, adviser[26]
  • Yuichi Kodama, film director[102]
  • Akihiro Fukube
  • Akihiro Hamabe
  • Hiroshi Nakamura, assistant musical director[102]
  • Iguchi
  • Junji Kojima, film director[102]
  • Keiji Wakabayashi
  • Koichiro Tsujikawa, film director[102]
  • Marco Balich, senior adviser to the executive producer
  • Marihiko Hara, composer[102]
  • Masayuki Kagei, composer[102]
  • Nami Tomizawa, set designer[136]
  • Noboru Tomizawa
  • Piera Shepperd, senior adviser to the executive producer
  • Seigen Tokuzawa, composer[102]
  • Shintaro Hirahara, director of choreography[102]
  • Takayuki Hioki, executive producer
  • Takayuki Suzuki
  • Takuji Higuchi, executive writer[102]
  • Toshihiko Sakura
  • Tugihisa Tanaka
  • Yohei Taneda, scenographer[102]
  1. ^ Fired by TOCOG due to insensitive jokes and bullying allegations, although the committee kept his program intact.


The ceremony was panned as being solemn and muted in comparison to previous Olympic ceremonies, with the lack of audience due to the state of emergency being a factor in the atmosphere, to the point that journalist Ian Dunt compared it to attending a funeral.[137] It was also largely panned for being too long, with Japanese reviewers on Yahoo! Japan arguing that Bach's 13-minute speech went far too long, where some athletes laid down during the speech.[138] Japanese Entertainment writer Elizabeth Matsumoto was confused by some elements of the ceremony such as the Matsuri segment, questioning why to focus on carpentry and if the tap dancing was necessary.[139]

Those who understood that the ceremony would be more muted, such as Jen Chaney from Vulture, opined that while it was largely entertaining and showed the perseverance of the human spirit, it also showed the pessimism and difficulties of holding the Summer Olympics during a pandemic, summarizing the theme of the ceremony as asking the question "What exactly are we doing here, and why?"[65]

Some did give positive reviews to the celebratory segments, including a segment featuring dancers re-creating the poses of the Games' pictograms.[140][141] Moreover, some Japanese reviewers felt that Misia's performance of the Japanese Anthem was excellent and dignified given the difficulties of performing the anthem live.[139]


In Japan, state broadcaster NHK aired the opening ceremony in 8K with 22.2 surround sound and hybrid log-gamma (HLG) HDR.[142][143] Despite wide opposition to the Olympics by residents, the opening ceremony was seen in Japan by at least 73.27 million viewers nationwide, with NHK peaking at a 61% audience share during a segment featuring Miki Maya and at the start of the parade of nations. CEO of Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) Yiannis Exarchos stated that the opening ceremony was the most-watched Japanese television broadcast in the last 10 years. Locally, it was reported that the opening ceremony had achieved a 56% audience share in the Kantō region, making it the most-watched television broadcast in the region since the opening ceremony of the 1964 Summer Olympics.[144]

South Korean broadcaster MBC faced criticism for showing profiles of countries with insensitive or stereotypical facts and images during the parade of nations, such as Italy being represented by a picture of pizza, Portugal being represented by a picture of egg tarts, Romania represented by a picture of Dracula, Ukraine represented by a photo of the Chernobyl disaster, Syria's profile mentioning the Syrian civil war, and Haiti described as having an "unstable political situation due to the assassination of the president". MBC CEO Park Sung-jae apologized for the imagery, stating that the network had "damaged the Olympic values of friendship, solidarity and harmony" with the images, which had been intended to help viewers identify the countries.[145][146]

In the United States, NBC announced that it would broadcast and stream the opening ceremony live in all time zones, (6:55 a.m. Eastern/3:55 a.m. Pacific) in addition to its traditional tape-delayed prime time broadcasts.[147][148][149] With a reported 17 million viewers, ratings declined 36% over the 2016 opening ceremony, while streaming viewers were up by 76%.[150][151]

In Canada, in addition to the main English and French-language broadcasts on CBC Television and Ici Radio-Canada Télé, CBC/Radio-Canada simulcasted the opening ceremony with streaming broadcasts in 8 Indigenous languages :East Cree, Dehcho Dene, Dënësųłinë́ Yałtı, Gwichʼin, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, Sahtu Dene and Tłı̨chǫ.[152]

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External links

In the video on the website ( sports.nhk.or.jp ), You can watch it in the full version of 4 hours 3 minutes 8 seconds.